At Besancon I stayed in the Youth Hostel for 4 days. On the Wednesday, I went to an “Eglise Evangelique” that I had been alerted to by one Mike James (Father of Hannah in Act II), which was quite nice. I understood none of the sermon, but did sing “Lord I Lift Your Name On High” in French, which was quite nice, as I sang it in English so got to do it without hacking my way through the words.

Come Friday, when my time there had run out, the parcel had not arrived with the things I needed. This put me in a bit of a fix, but fortunately a priest gave me the details of the Diocesenal Centre, where I saved cash by sleeping on the floor. This was thus free and I still got breakfast! The next day I returned to the post office, but still no parcel, so sadly I returned to the Youth Hostel and booked in for 2 more nights. On Saturday evening I went to church, getting lost and drenched in the rain and arriving late. The people were very happy to see me, especially the pastor who had been overjoyed on Friday when I told him I was going to study Theology. Because I knew it, they played Lord I Lift Your Name On High (Je loue Ton Nom Eternel) for me, as well as a French hymn to the tune of God Save The Queen! On which note, we do it with Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken to the tune of the German National Anthem – though quite why is beyond me as Abbot’s Leigh is a far grander tune. The guy who had driven me back to the hostel on Wednesday did so again, and in his CD player was a praise CD with some good tunes, which he agreed to burn for me.

Sunday I returned to the Church at 9 for an 8-hour service – actually 2 services with a lunch break in the middle, which I enjoyed for free! Twas very good. After lunch the youth group went to the upper room to practice their play for Christmas, and I watched with very little comprehension of what was going on, but oh well.

On Monday the parcel finally arrived! So I took it and shoving the contents into various sections of the rucksack, left Besancon. However, my late departure meant I was unable to do the full section that day, so I did half of it, bedding down behind a church in Mamirolle. The next day I did the other half of that day and the first half of the next, sleeping that night in the porch of the Mairie in Hautepierre-le-Chatelet. The next day, Wednesday, I finally made up the distance, doing a day and a half to take me to Pontarlier. I took half an hour out that afternoon to go up “Mont Calvaire” – a winding path up a hill with the Passion story recreated via the Stations of the Cross placed at intervals on the path, and culminating with the cross and the tomb at the summit. Eventually, at half past 8 I reached the campsite. However, the rain was awful and even though I was semi under shelter (in a semi-hut as my tent was useless), I and my things got rather damp. Before I went to this hut I used the phone box there, and saw the donkey that had been tethered at one of the pitches wandering past me!

The next day I left early (before reception opened :D) and got on my way. I had breakfast at about 9 on a bench by the side of a road under a bridge, and as it was Founder’s Day, I stood up and raised my hot chocolate to the Housey Toast:

The Religious, Royal and Ancient Foundation of Christ’s Hospital. May those prosper who love it, and may God increase their number. HOUSEY!

At one point en route I was given a choice between a long, steep section or the flat road. I unusually took the long road, and at several points was certain I had gone the wrong way (the Via Wronga being now as familiar to me as the Via Francigena), but at last I was rewarded with the view I had sought, of Castle Joux from above. I descended to the road route and continued up into the first of the mountains, crossing the French-Swiss border around mid-afternoon, I arrived in Ste. Croix and went to the hostel listed in the book, but it was closed. Fortunately, the church I then scouted out turned out to have the details of its pastors (that’s right, Pastors – this is Protestantism here!) and they not only lived in the village, but on the same road as the hostel – and were a married couple! So I went along and fortunately they were able to put me up. Even better, I arrived in time for dinner (getting rather good at this trick!) and we had potato – something I had, and have, been missing greatly.

The next day I went to Orbe, and got very lost en route, but this turned out to be a boon as it cut my distance rather dramatically. Nonetheless, my feet were in poor condition and very wrinkly when I arrived in Orbe. That evening I was met by John Turner, a physicist who had taught at CH until July and now worked at the international school in Rolle. After some crossed wires (I thought he was hunting me and he thought I was settled for the night), we made contact and he agreed to come and and meet me. He was on duty in house but was allowed out on a mission of mercy, partly since it was half term there and only a few students were still there. When he met me I had a Coke Zero and Mars bar in his Mini, as I had only had a hot chocolate since I stopped, and when we reached Rolle, he got out one of his emergency pizzas for me to eat. My stomach seemed to have shrunk, however, as I only managed half of it! So I put the other half in the fridge, together with the leftover chocolate mousse from the house dinner that evening which he insisted I ate. We then looked up Google directions from Orbe to my next destination, Vufflens-la-Ville, and saved them ready to print the next day. By this time it was after midnight and JT was driving to England the next day, so we turned in.

The next morning I awoke early and set aside a number of things to go home with JT, as his parents lived in the same town as me, and he had agreed to drive them home for me. After breakfast we went to the local hypermarket (a Co-op!) and went shopping – and I bought socks! At Vufflens-la-Ville, a family who had found my blog had offered to host me. They had opened a Pilgrim Hostel in their house after seeing the sign erected in town, and so I slept there. For dinner we had a traditional swiss dinner, of a huge sausage with cabbage and potato and STUFF. I like Stuff. After dinner, I used their internet, and managed to get carried away, zobbing away til 1am doing important things!#

The next day I was due to take a train to Lausanne at half past 9 to get to Church for 10. When I woke up it was 8 o’clock, when the the family had said they would have breakfast. So I lay in bed for a while, waiting for them to get up. My watch said 9 and still nothing, and I panicked. At half 9, they got up, and we had breakfast. It was then that they reminded me that the clocks had gone back, and it was really only half past 8! After breakfast they drove me into town and to Church – with some difficulty as the Lausanne Marathon had shut half the roads. We sang some pretty good hymns, like “Alleluia, Sing To Jesus” (to the Hyfrydol tune, which just makes it a shame that it hadn’t been “Ye That Know The Lord Is Gracious” which is a better set of words), and “Thou Whose Almighty Word”, which is just a tune, and brings back memories of CH hymn practice, singing the ultra-low line “And took their flight” over and over again. Unfortunately I missed a good deal of the sermon as my 11 o’clock walking alarm went off in the middle and I scurried out to shut it up! Afterwards, it turned out I had arrrived on the last Sunday in the month, when the church had a bring and share lunch. So I ate there, too! Then I went off walking, and as I was going along the promenade of Lake Leman, a man on the pavement beside me said to his children, in English, “Look, that man’s got a big pack on; he’s going on a very long walk.” I decided to talk to him, and got chatting about it. It turned out that this man lives about 3 miles away from me! As we were talking, I mentioned how I had “just finished school”, and was taking a Gap Year. He asked me, “Oh, where did you go to school?” I replied, certain he wouldn’t have heard of it or if he had would have only slightly, “Oh, Christ’s Hospital in Horsham.” At no point did I expect his response: “No way – I went there too – love the Brotherhood and all that.” It turned out that I was talking to one Guy Rhodes, Leigh Hunt B and Peele A! I had been wanting to meet an Old Blue by fluke since the pilgrimage started, and now I had! That night I slept in a phone box, as again I had started very late (2pm after lunch).  The next day I got to Aigle, and found a tiny Salvation Army hostel and ate “Salvo Soup” – Salvation Army-branded cup-a-soup. The next day, armed with more Salvo Soup, I set off for Martigny. I arrived in town around mid-afternoon but after spending an hour in the internet cafe, arrived at the hostel after it had shut. Fortunately a lady came to the local Catholic church while I was there and spotted me, and drove me to a rectory apartment where I stayed, eating the food she had given me. This meant that in the entirety of Switzerland I hadn’t paid for accommodation once! The next day the lady drove me to the railway station, where I picked up the first of two coaches that would take me through the Grand St. Bernard Tunnel and into Aosta. Warm when I left, when we changed at Bourg-St. Pierre halfway up the mountain it was mighty cold! We arrived in Aosta and I walked most of the way to Aosta. I slept in a church porch, with the door slightly ajar so I didn’t unwittingly get locked in. The next day I went to Hone – a very good distance. I slept that night in the presbytery, as the hostel in the book didn’t exist – something I have noticed a number of times en route, where a “hostel” turns out simply to be the church. If other pilgrims are reading this, take heed. The next day, I went to Ivrea, and began Kemping it – a term named after the late Clive Kemp and his manner of walking very quickly. I slept in a hostel at a canoe club. It was rather expensive – fifteen Euros for not very much, rather like the campsite as Suzy, but oh well. I ate the last of my food, thinking that the supermarket would be open Sunday Morning. As it turned out, it was only open every other Sunday! Fortunately I was kemping it so I arrived at Ropollo, my destination, at lunchtime, where some nuns, who didn’t know of the Casa Francigena hostel in the village (seemingly because it’s not real), fed me. A lady whose friend had interpreted for me knew of a hostel in the next village, and gave me the details. When I arrived I found the lady and her husband, and they came and got the key for me. The husband then went to the hostel with me, and after settling me in, gave me the five euro donation for the night, as well as some food from his wife’s mother, including a mighty chicken and tomato sandwich and chocolate cake! I went to get a takeaway for dinner, but it was shut, so I ate the food I had been given. The next day I walked 10km to Santhia, where there was a hostel, making that my rest day. I laid in til 8.30 before leaving. I arrived just after 1pm, and buying food, went to the estate agents to collect the key. I then plowed my way through nine rashers of bacon between four rolls! Then I went and used the internet at the estate agent. That evening, I went to go to the cafe across the road which did a specially cheap pilgrim menu, but it was shut on Mondays! So I went and found a pizza takeaway, and using my phrasebook, I studied the menu and found something that sounded nice – beginning with B and topped with ham, mushrooms and onions, and managed to order it. I had a coke with it and got to watch it being made, which thus counts as authentic Italian cuisine. As it turned out, it was cheaper than the cafe anyway! Again I could only eat half, so put the rest aside for breakfast. The next day I dropped the keys off and left. My destination was Vercelli, where the third volume of the Lightfood Trilogy began. About mid-afternoon, in a village, a lady stopped me and drove me to her house where she gave me a cheese sandwich and cake. It turned out that the very Dean who had blessed my pilgrimage in Canterbury had sat where I was now two years before when he had cycled to Rome! After that, I arrived in Vercelli where I found the hostel. It was ten Euros but did include a dinner of potatoes, rice-soup, peppers, mushrooms, salami and bread. After this it was late and so I went to bed. The next day I rose early and made some hot chocolate before leaving. In the town I bought supplies for the day, as well as milk and two yoghurts. These, with the last of the Choco Rocks I had bought in Santhia, were my breakfast. Mortara was 33.9km away, continuing between the rice fields I had begun to encounter a few days before. However, by half past 4 I had only done 20km and it was gathering dusk. By concentrated Kemping I managed to arrive at the abbey by seven o’clock, situated on the other side of town, meaning my total distance for the day was in fact nigh on 36km. When I arrived a sign told me that pilgrims were only accepted with a reservation; however, I decided to try my luck and rang the bell. Nobody answered so I waited, thinking perhaps they were in Vespers or Compline, and rang again after 8. Again there was no answer, so in a slight huff I bedded down. At half past ten I was awakened – if I had been asleep – by a man, who told me the hostel was shut for winter. He still let me in, however, and I went to sleep indoors. At half 7 the next day I was awakened by him, and he prepared breakfast for me. I ate this with gusto as I had had a fairly sleepless night. When he learnt my age he was astonished that I was walking alone. Another man – I’m not sure either of them were monks as they lacked habits or dog collars – slipped me 4 Euros on my way out (I thought I donated to them, not the other way round!) and the first man took a picture of me with both his and my cameras for the pilgrim collection. Then I left, but seemed to have the back end of food poisoning, probably caused by undercooked bacon or ham. So I got a lift to the Abbey, but was taken instead to a B&B, where I was given a room for 40 Euros. I said I couldn’t pay that so I left, and off I went. As it was dark, I stopped by the canal path to sleep rough. Unfortunately the rain was very heavy and even in my (actually rather useless) bivvy bag, I got soaking wet.

And that’s where I am now. Less wet, about to take a train to Santa Cristina. Stay tuned…